AGAINST THERAPY begins with a basic discussion of Freud’s “seduction theory,” describing how Freud, in an effort to be accepted by his peers, denied the realities of sexual and emotional abuse suffered by his patients and redefined these abuses as fantasies. Upon the foundation of this dehumanizing and judgmental attitude, psychotherapy as we know it today evolved. Although an occasional voice may have cried out against the potential within psychotherapy for patient abuse, these voices were suppressed and silenced by a profession which saw any criticism as a threat, not only to its financial well-being but also to the personal identity of its membership.
In order to make his case that psychotherapy is every bit as evil and heinous as wife-beating or apartheid, Jeffrey Masson has researched the papers of many pioneering psychotherapists. He reviews, for example, the writings of Carl Jung with particular attention to his relationship with Nazism. He provides scandalous and nauseating examples of the practices of John Rosen and Albert Honig. Where more positive approaches are acknowledged, the author nevertheless demonstrates that these approaches and techniques are still judgmental and value-laden. Even when more insightful therapists recognize and empathize with the suffering of their patients, these therapists, according to Masson, never use their insights to bring about social reforms, preferring instead to perpetuate society’s cruel institutions and the unhappy status quo.
Masson has written a diatribe in which he loudly proclaims that there is no such thing as mental illness or deviant behavior, nor is there such a thing as truly unbiased, compassionate, and caring treatment. In his effort to persuade his audience of the need to annihilate psychotherapy and psychotherapists, Masson overplays his hand.
The reader grows numb from sordid example after sordid example, yet Masson never proposes any realistic alternatives to protect clients and patients from such unprincipled and incompetent treatment while at the same time helping them find relief from their pain. After such an impassioned argument for his premise, it is unfortunate that the author does not even begin to suggest a realistic solution.